Sunday, March 13, 2011

Weekend Music Roundup

I was away for the second half of this past week, soaking up the sun in Florida. Now anyone who knows me knows that I despise the sun. I'll be happy when it dies out and leaves us all alone. But that said, a few days away from winter is never so bad. Though I love winter, it is nice to be warm for a spell. Perhaps that is why most of the selections I've chosen for this week's music picks tend to fall on the sunny side. Nearly exclusively, these albums are meant more for the warm weather of summer (except maybe The Jesus Lizard). Hope you enjoy them.

The Notorious xx: This is the last of a series of mash-up albums that I sought out about a month ago when I was going through a phase of looking for the most intriguing pairings. This album combines Notorious B.I.G. songs with songs from the 2009 debut album from the xx. The pairing is quite decent, especially when the best xx songs are used, such as "Islands". But as a mash-up, it isn't quite as integrated as it could be. It sounds more like a DJ album mixing the two together, which is still fun. But the best mash-ups take two sounds, blend them together, and create something that sounds brand new.

Lissie - Daytrotter Sessions 2008 & 2010: I first heard this singer-songwriter on a television performance and was captivated by her voice. When that happens, I typically go to to see if they have recorded any sessions (Daytrotter Sessions are available for FREE download and they have an archive of amazing artists). These seven songs are all quite good. It's standard indie folk but Lissie's voice really brings out the emotion in the songs and elevates them into something more beautiful. I have yet to listen to her full length albums, but I plan to in the near future.

Pink Floyd - The Complete Zabriskie Point Sessions: These recordings from 1969 make up one of the two great lost Pink Floyd albums, along with The Man & The Journey. This is solidly in Pink Floyd's experimental phase, recorded around the time of Ummagumma and Atom Heart Mother, one of my favorite Floyd phases. The songs on here are more story pieces, but wonderful examples of them. Though nothing on here is as great as their masterpieces in the genre such as 'Careful with that Ax, Eugene" or 'Echoes', they are still an essential missing piece in the Floyd catalog that I can't believe I waited so long to pick up.

The Jesus Lizard - Head & Pure: In the '90s, this Chicago post-hardcore band was one of the fringe bands that were just a little too strange to ride the wave of alternative stardom. That didn't stop them from being one of my favorite bands of the era. They recorded some of my favorite albums of the '90s, but until I recently, I didn't own this, this compilation of their first album and first EP. Like all of their work, it's explosive. The Jesus Lizard taps into the darkest ends of the imagination and lets it come out sounding like The Stooges being played in a dirty public restroom. The energy they bring is unmistakable and the stories they tell are unforgettable. This is as close as any band will ever get to making music that captures the novels of William Burroughs.

Brenda Lee - Too Many Rivers: This is Brenda's third album to come in 1965 and falls solidly in her swirling pop era. I picked this up on vinyl a few weeks ago in my quest to complete my early Brenda Lee collection. Like 1963's All Alone Am I, this is a wonderful collection of contemporary pop tunes and covers. Brenda's voice is in prime performance and songs like "Too Many Rivers" and "Unforgettable" are, well, unforgettable. Not quite as great as All Alone Am I, but still pretty spectacular.

Savoy Brown - Shake Down: The 1967 debut album from the British Blues band is another fine example of the genre. I know it seems I review one album from this genre every week, but that's only because it's one of my favorite periods of music. The revival of the American blues sound, reinterpreted in the swinging '60s of the UK produces such an amazing combination of old blues and rock music. This is pretty heavy blues, though the band would get even heavier as the '70s came. "Black Night" is the stand-out track on here.

New Riders of the Purple Sage - New Riders of the Purple Sage: This is a band I've been listening to for the past two years or so, but I recently got this, their 1971 debut. This band, started by Jerry Garcia, was a combination of Bay Area musicians. Their blend of California country rock is a sound that really appeals to me. It's very easy-going music that taps into the groove of the time and place. This is a solid effort, though I still think their third album, Gypsy Cowboy is far superior.

Tom Waits - The Heart of Saturday Night: For someone whose music is so identifiable, it sometimes amazes me how diverse Tom Waits can be. This 1974 album, his second, really defines his early sound, which is very influenced by jazz and the Beat Poets. It's a stunning album with many amazing songs, including "New Coat of Paint" and "San Diego Serenade". Though I prefer the more manic albums that would follow, this is an essential album in his catalog, full of drunken soul.

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